This September, not far from Mount Rainier National Park, four authors will participate in a first-of-its-kind residency for U.S.-based Spanish-language writers. Sponsored by former Washington State poet laureate Claudia Castro Luna (Cipota Under the Moon), the residency will take place at Mineral School, a school-building-turned-artists’-retreat. Castro Luna worked with Maria de Lourdes Victoria, founder of the writers’ workshop Seattle Escribe, and Mineral School founder Jane Hodges to establish the pilot program, which happens during National Hispanic Heritage Month.

“There are hardly any programs in the U.S. for people who speak and actively pursue writing in languages other than English,” said Castro Luna, who is Salvadoran American. In the Puget Sound region, Spanish-speaking writers can participate in workshops through Seattle Escribe, established circa 2014 as a free program through Seattle Public Library, and join writing communities like Seattle’s Hugo House, but no residencies existed until now. “I decided that nobody was going to do this unless someone like me did it,” Castro Luna said.

Castro Luna contacted Jane Hodges and proposed seeding a Spanish-immersion residency at Mineral School. Hodges was open to the prospect. “What I realized from that conversation, and conversations with other artists of backgrounds that are underrepresented, is that they’d like to do the jurying and shape the residency,” said Hodges. “We’re a white-led rural organization, but we don’t want our program to just be for white people coming to the country. Some people want to be in a community from the same background, rather than be the lone person of a culture or language in a mixed group.”

After discussing logistics with Hodges, Castro Luna got in touch with Maria de Lourdes Victoria, who established Seattle Escribe in 2014 (in cooperation with Marcela Calderón-Vodall of Seattle Public Library). Seattle Escribe provides free workshops entirely in Spanish; novelist Carolina Herrera and children’s author Mariana Llanos led online Spring workshops, and Gerardo Cárdenas will lead one in September. “We’re trying to support the writers and the literature that is being produced in the United States by Spanish-speaking people—that’s our mission,” Victoria said, citing the #NewLatinoBoom hashtag as evidence of this trend. “We want to create awareness of all the talent that exists.”

As their collaborative plan came together, Castro Luna and Victoria lined up three Spanish-speaking writers as judges—Worcester State University professor Naida Saavedra, journalist Miguel de la Cruz, and Seattle University professor Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs—and promoted the residency through AWP and Poets & Writers. More than 40 writers applied, and residencies were awarded to Alejandro Pérez-Cortés, Claudia Hernández Ocádiz, Elizabeth Sotelo, and Rossy Toledo. Teresa Luengo Cid, a Spanish language services specialist with the King County Library System, will be on site as host, and Siolo Thompson, a writer-illustrator fluent in both Spanish and that universal language, cuisine, will be the chef. (“she’s kind of a Renaissance woman,” Hodges said.)

Castro Luna wants to see the residency offered twice a year, although she can only fund it for certain this one time. Mineral School is open to hosting again, and Victoria feels grant support is long overdue for Seattle Escribe. “At what point are they going to recognize that we are part of this community?” she asked. The organization operates on volunteer labor, “and we’ve been doing this for eight years. We would like to formalize this, because we are growing, and we are creating literature that is being recognized in other parts of the world. It’s due time that we get that recognition in the United States, in our hometown.”

Victoria and Castro Luna observe that Spanish-language writers in the U.S. go unrecognized due to many factors: lack of focused workshops, publishers based largely outside the U.S., and booksellers unsure how to identify and order Spanish-language books through distributors. Retreat centers, publishers, and booksellers might not have bilingual people on staff at all. When applying at one retreat center, Victoria said, “I had to translate my work to send it in for consideration.” (Her short-form work appears in U.S. publications, but her novels appear on Planeta de Libros and other Mexican publishers.)

“There is a readership,” said Castro Luna, “but it is hard for people who are writing in Spanish to access the market. There is a break in the chain.” Success stories do exist, and she points to venues like Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore in L.A., home to a bilingual inventory, as well as Adriana Pacheco’s podcast and blog Hablemos, escritoras, which includes an online bookstore and an encyclopedic listing of women-identified authors, translators, and books in Spanish.

“The more we have room for all kinds of writing, the richer we are as a result, whether you speak that language or not,” Castro Luna said. Mineral School’s immersive residency aims to foster a few Spanish-language writers, while raising wider awareness of an untapped category.